The Call of the Wild



Hal is an American who comes to the Klondike in search of gold.  While he plays an important role in Buck’s life, Hal’s character is not fully developed in the novel.  However, this superficial treatment is not accidental; Hal is a superficial man.  He is drawn by the prospect of gold, but is totally unprepared for life in the Klondike.  However, he believes that he is an expert.  This combination of ignorance and arrogance places everyone in his expedition in peril.  Hal is a symbol of the negative impact of civilization on human beings.  Returned to the wild—which is, of course, humanity’s natural state—the civilized man is revealed to be completely incompetent.  Even more revealing is that Hal seems unwilling to learn from his experiences.  By the time they reach Thornton’s camp, they have lost the majority of the dogs on their team and faced starvation.  One would assume that his ordeal would have made Hal eager to learn from someone clearly more experienced than he is. However, when Thornton warns him that the ice is too thin to support the team, Hal ignores him.  Instead, he determines that he will drive the team over the ice.  When Buck, who has been a successful and earnest leader for his team, refuses to move forward, Hal begins to beat him.  This shows how Hal, who represents civilization, refuses to listen to Thornton and Buck, who represent the wild.  Although Thornton intervenes and saves Buck’s life, Hal pushes through onto the ice.  The ice is, as Thornton said it would be, too thin and the team crashes through the ice, taking Hal with it.

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